Washington State Patrol warns against holiday phone scam using agency's name

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The pitch is friendly and convincing, designed to tug at your heart strings and your wallet. But it’s all a scam. This recent one is using the Washington State Patrol name and an app to make it look legitimate.

Chris Norton has gotten calls from telemarketers before, but a recent one stood out.

“There was a man on the phone; he seemed like he wanted to be my pal right away,” said Norton. “He was very friendly, maybe a little too friendly.”

The caller peaked his interest, as he claimed to be from the Washington State Patrol Foundation, raising funds to honor fallen officers and fund a children’s internet safety campaign.

“They’re really touching on those sympathy points,” said Norton.

State Patrol Sgt. Paul Cagle said since August, they’ve had more than 200 reports of scammers calling people pretending to be with the agency, and the number is only expected to increase.

“Of course, during the holidays it’s a time for people to give a little bit this time of year,” said Cagle.

As legitimate as the calls may seem, Cagle said there are some key differences between scammers and a representative of WSP or its union.

“They aren’t going to employ hard-sale tactics and they’re never going to ask for money, credit card information or really any financial information over the phone at all,” said Cagle.

In Norton’s case, his questions spooked the scammer and caused him to hang up. However, he fears the next potential victim won’t be so fortunate.

“I can see where they are sending in their hooks, and I can see with someone who is an honorable person they would be even more inclined to give them money,” said Norton.

In many of the cases, police said that phone numbers showing up on caller IDs are legitimate phone numbers and that scammers are doing this by using what they call spoofing apps. Their advice is don’t let just the number itself fool you and no matter what, never give credit card or any personal information over the phone.